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Landmarks in the Law - Employment & Labor Law


  • Overtime pay; two claims rejected. The 8th Circuit rejected a pair of overtime compensation claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §201, et seq.

    Truck drivers are not covered for overtime compensation due to an exemption in the Motor Carrier Act for those who have a “reasonable expectation” of interstate driving, even if they did not do so. Alexander v. Tuttle & Tuttle Trucking, 2016 Minn. App. LEXIS 15321 (Minn. App. 8/21/2016) (unpublished).

    Production plant employees cannot receive overtime pay for time spent “donning and doffing” employer-required apparel and protective gear before and after their work shifts. The “custom and practice” of not compensating them for that time under an expired collective bargaining agreement carried over to an “implied-in-fact” agreement for continuity of terms after the contract concluded. Jackson v. Old EPT, 2016 Minn. App. LEXIS 15416 (8/23/2016) (unpublished).

  • Sex harassment; no qualified immunity for university. The University of Minnesota is not entitled to qualified immunity in a sexual harassment and hostile environment lawsuit brought by a graduate researcher. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge John Tunheim in Minnesota denying immunity. Jenkins v. University of Minnesota, 2016 Minn. App. LEXIS 17761 (Minn. App. 9/18/2016) (unpublished).
  • Age discrimination; reduction-in-force. A Minnesota pharmacist who sued for age discrimination after he was terminated and not rehired was denied relief. The 8th Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kyle in Minnesota, holding that the company’s deviation from its guidelines for a Reduction-In-Force (RIF) did not warrant an inference of determination because the company’s practice was “consistent” and the pharmacist was terminated due to loss of business and not rehired because of the unprofessional way he reacted to the discharge. Noreen v. PharMerica Corp., 2016 Minn. App. LEXIS 15238 (8/19/2016) (unpublished).
  • Workplace defamation; privilege for high-level personnel. A deputy state commissioner is entitled to absolute immunity for a defamation claim brought by a terminated state employee. The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld dismissal of the claim against the deputy in the Department of Human Services for making disparaging statements about the terminated employee, but allowed the case to proceed against a state hospital administrator who may raise a lesser claim of qualified privilege that can be overcome by proving common law ill will or malice. Harlow v. State, 883 N.W.2d 561 (8/10/2016).
  • Workers compensation; assigned-risk plan not liable. A general contractor’s claim that a workers’ compensation assigned-risk plan provider covered a claim against it was rejected. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling that under the terms of the assigned-risk plan policy, the worker’s compensation carrier for the subcontractor was effectively canceled before the date the employee suffered an injury, which precluded liability on the part of the assigned-risk plan. Minn. Workers’ Comp. Assigned Risk Plan v Reyes, 2016 Minn. App. LEXIS 823 (Minn. App. 8/22/2016) (unpublished).
  • Unemployment compensation; denial for assaulting boss. A housekeeper at a care facility was denied unemployment compensation benefits because she was terminated for assaulting the nursing director. The appellate court upheld a ruling of “disqualifying misconduct,” but remanded the case for determination whether the misbehavior constituted “aggravated misconduct,” which would extend the time period for ineligibility from benefits. Barrett v. Jourdain/Perpich Extended Care Facility, Inc., 2016 Minn. App. LEXIS 820 (Minn. App. 8/22/2016) (unpublished).
  • Unemployment compensation; relocating not “good reason.” An employee who claimed ineligibility for unemployment compensation benefits because he quit after his complaints about unsafe working conditions were not adequately investigated, was denied unemployment benefits. The appellate court ruled that the evidence showed that the real reason the employee quit was because he was relocating, which did not constitute a “good reason” to warrant quitting and being eligible for unemployment benefits. Paulzine v. Charter Communications, LLC, 2016 Minn. App. LEXIS 900 (Minn. App. 9/12/2016) (unpublished).
  •  Unemployment compensation; quit determination upheld. An employee who quit her job at a group home for disabled adults was not entitled to unemployment compensation benefits despite her claim of adverse working conditions. The court of appeals upheld denial of benefits because the claimant did not give the employer an opportunity to address her concerns. Ostman v. Range Center, Inc.2016 Minn. App. LEXIS 933 (Minn. App. 10/3/2016) (unpublished).


  • TAs can unionize. The National Labor Relations Board ruled that graduate teaching assistants (TAs) at private colleges and universities are entitled to unionize. Reversing its own decision a dozen years ago, the board’s determination could affect many TAs at the institutions of higher learning in Minnesota, especially the University of Minnesota, where past attempts to organize unions have faltered, although adjunct teachers did manage to unionize earlier this year at Hamline University. Columbia University02-RC-143102 (NLRB) 8/23/2016.

As published in Bench & Bar of Minnesota.